Thursday, December 23, 2010

In An Attempt to Be Cool (And Fashionable)(And Cheap)

And now for a break from my normal blogging fare.

It's not that I don't know what's in style or what the latest fads are. It's not that I'm afraid to dress in fads. It's not that I don't want to spend money on clothes that make me look and feel fashionable.

It's just that it's so not practical.

I don't have a job and on average I leave the house only once a week without the kids. Otherwise they are always with me. So there's a rotation. A rotation of really good-fitting jeans and really good-fitting yoga pants paired with cheap tank tops under cheap long-sleeved t-shirts of all different colors. Sometimes I go wild and wear a cardigan. But that would only be for special occasions. Like going to the nice grocery store instead of the cheap, ghetto one that more fits our budget.

And then there's these or these which I wear every single day. Why? Because they slip on. Who has time to tie shoes when there's two kids tugging at every ligament by the back door?

Then there's the whole money thing. It just doesn't seem right to spend money on fun clothes that I will wear only a handful of times per year. Plus there's that whole thing about my kids needing to eat. And it's usually nice to have heat during a Minnesota winter. And I don't want to get too greedy but a box of diapers every few weeks really makes my life feel full of riches.

But with all those reasons going against me, something set off a spark anyway. Maybe it was buying all the new clothes for Christmas for EVERY ONE ELSE. Or maybe it was the ridiculous holiday discounts I found. Or maybe, and let's be honest, this is probably the most likely, it's that the days are inching closer and closer to my 30th birthday and I'm desperately trying to defy time by saying, "No! Look! I don't look like a 30-something mom yet! I can still be a cool 20-something-er!"

So here's what I did. I hauled two squirmy kids into the dressing room with me. And pulled them up. Zipped and buttoned. I did a few squats to really make sure everything fell into place. Lucy looked in the full-length mirror and copied me. I turned around and looked at my back side. So did Lucy. No muffin top! I made the leap and bought them. Maybe only because they fit. Maybe only because they were $15. Fifteen dollars! My first ever pair of skinny jeans.

Then I was on the hunt for the perfect pair of tall boots to go with them.

Wait. Scratch that. Do-over.

Then I was on the hunt for the perfect pair of cheap tall boots to go with them.

Turns out such a thing does not exist. Or at least it doesn't exist in a size 8 1/2. However, if you're a size 6 or a size 10 you're golden.

But when God closes a door he opens a window. In my case He opened a window to reveal a pair of patent leather red pumps. Gorgeous! On sale from $60 to $18. Eighteen dollars! Gorgeous-er!

What's that you say? You want to see pictures?

Totally not almost 30, right?

Comments, suggestions welcome.  Teasing, disparagement is not.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Embracing Christmas

During the busy-ness of these holiday months I will randomly stop and wonder if, and hope that, we're doing it right.  It's tough living a sacred life in a secular world.

I don't think there's any other religious holiday that is so embraced (in ways good or bad) by the secular world.

I have friends and family members who celebrate Christmas on either side of that sacred/secular line.  I know families who don't acknowledge a Santa Claus.  I know families who don't go to church on Christmas.  I know families who don't put up a single Christmas decoration until the season of Advent is over.  I know families who aren't sure there is a Christ to worship but who celebrate a holiday known as Christmas anyhow.

Once I had children of my own I had to stop and think about it:  What was Christmas going to mean to us?  What were our own Christmas traditions going to be?  What was going to work best with our values?

If you come to my house you will find:
  • a fully-decorated tree that was put up around the beginning of December and will stay up through the Epiphany.
  • a Nativity set without a Baby Jesus until Christmas Morning.
  • an Advent wreath.
  • Christmas music of all kinds playing in the background.
  • an Advent prayer guide at my bedside.
  • the book 'Twas the Night Before Christmas sitting next to The Christmas Baby.
These were also the types of households both Brian and I were raised in.  We remember Christmas fondly.  We remember it being magical and delicious and a time to break the rules and a time to believe and a time when almost anything could happen.

Of course there were indulgences in consumerism.  But there were also lessons in giving and in patience and in self-discipline and in hope and in believing in the impossible.  These were the traditions given to us and these are the traditions we hope to continue.

This year Santa Claus will visit my children.  But, at four years old, if you ask William what he's most excited about come Christmas Day, Santa will probably not be at the top of his list.  He might tell you he's excited to find out where Daddy hid the Baby Jesus.  He might tell you he's excited that I'll finally let him wear that red tie to mass.  He might tell you he's excited to go to his Nana's house to play with all his cousins.  Or he might tell you he's excited to eat all the cookies Mommy's been saving.

But if you ask William what Christmas is, he will always, always, without hesitation, tell you that Christmas is Jesus' birthday.

And while these are the traditions that work for our family I still refuse to believe that a solely secular Christmas, one that embraces consumerism and one that may forget the CHRIST in Christmas, is all bad.  For at the heart of any Christmas celebration there is a common theme.  To give.  To give to others.  To give to our families.  To give to those less fortunate.  To give of ourselves.

And nothing reminds me more of Christ than to give.

So you see, even if it seems we've forgotten to remember Christ in Christmas, I know God is bigger than that.  He's found a way to allow the Holy Spirit to work within us all.  He's found a way to make us so excited we can't sleep the night before and we can barely eat our breakfast because we just can't wait another minute for Christmas to come.  He's found a way to inspire us to help those in need.  He's found a way to bring families together.  He's found a way for us to feel loved, to find peace and to be blessed.

So even if you may have forgotten that He is the reason for the season, He will never forget that you were the reason for His.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cookie Cheer

It's become an annual tradition around here.  One where I bake and bake and bake some more.  Then I send my little elves out for some special neighbor-ly delivers.

It's my way of saying thanks.  Thanks for those tools you let us borrow.  Thanks for having William over to play.  Thanks for watching out for our home while we were away.  Thanks for being a friendly face to live by.
 This year the spread included:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pay It Forward Friday

I know that this Friday post has been on hiatus for quite some time.  And it's not because there haven't been any people paying it forward.  It's because my Fridays have been cah-ra-zee.  I really should utilize the auto-post option more often.  Moving on...

There were so many acts of kindness I witnessed this week that I'm afraid I'm going to miss some.  Here are few off the top of my head.

1.  My neighbor borrowed me an egg when I started a batch of cookies at 8 p.m. only to realize all the eggs were used for French toast the day before.  Brian was gone and the kids were in bed.  What's a Suzie Homemaker to do?  So I called my lovely neighbor and not only did she have an egg for me but she brought the egg to me!  In the below zero temps.  Love her!

2.  If you're not from a snowy region you probably won't understand my love/hate relationship with the city snow plows.  I obviously love them because they clear the roads for us so we can get from Point A to Point B without worrying about needing a tow truck to help us turn a corner in a one and half feet of snow.

But when you live on a city side street, as we do, your road is not their top priority.  So the plows usually don't make an appearance around our house until several hours after the snow has ceased and several more hours after we've shed blood, sweat and tears trying to plow our own driveway and sidewalk.  When the huge plow finally comes by he leaves a wake of rock hard snow boulders blocking the entrance to your neatly-cleared driveway and sidewalks.  It's maddening because it always seems to happen the moment you take off all your snow clothes and settle inside to get warm.

This happened Monday morning.  Thankfully our car was parked on the street because Brian was in between client appointments.  He had to leave right then but he told me to leave the mess the plow made and he would clear it when he returned.  These were strict instructions from him after weeks of me complaining about my back.

But did I listen?


As soon as Lucy went down for her nap, William and I geared up and went outside.  I started working on the pile of snow in front of our driveway right away.  A few minutes into my work a large pickup truck with a snow plow drove past.  I saw two men in the truck and I made eye contact with them and batted my eyelashes a few times.  A little damsel in distress, you know?  They drove past me, put on the brakes, and then reversed.


The driver rolled down his window and asked me if he could clear the snow for me.  Could he?!  I stood back and in two swipes the snow was gone.

Of course, when Brian returned I played it off like I did the whole thing myself before I finally gave in and told him how I charmed a couple of guys into doing the work for me.

3.  Brian paid #2 forward by helping numerous drivers out of the snow this week.  He worked on one car for at least an hour before our neighbor chimed in and attached a chain to the back of his pick-up truck and yanked the car to freedom.

4.  On Sunday, the day after our Blizzard, I saw two boys around the ages of 11 or 12 walking around the neighborhood just to see if anyone needed help.

This, my friends, is why I love living in Minnesota.  The snow and cold can be a huge pain, but the kindness of each and every resident is unparalleled.

Your turn!  What acts of kindness have you seen or been a part of the last few weeks?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Things You Should Know

1.  Lucy pulled down our Christmas tree.  To the floor.  Not a single thing broke.  Except Lucy's feelings.  She hasn't touched the huge, prickly, green monster residing in our living room since.  Who says toddlers can't remember cause and effect?

2.  William had his Christmas Program at school today.  I was very proud.  Especially the part during "Rudolph" when he picked his nose.  And then decided he was hungry.  Seriously, whose kid is that?!  That's what I asked the person sitting next to me.  And then pretended he was a crazy person when he came running up to me afterward calling me mommy.

I'm kidding, of course.  About the "pretending he's not mine" part.  Not the booger-eating part.  That was for real.  Here's the video.  (I apologize for the jumpiness.  It's hard to take a video when your 19-month-old simultaneously thinks she's a professional chair climber.)

3. YOU GUYS! Guess what?!?!  I totally got an early Christmas present.  Two, actually.

First, I got a new camera from my mom for Christmas.  I knew which one I wanted and it was on sale through the 25th so we jumped on it.  I couldn't fully plunge into the whole DSLR movement because I can't imagine myself hauling around a camera that big and breakable and, well, kinda scary.  So I found a happy medium between a point & shoot and a DSLR and I'm pleased as punch.  This is the one I got.
Here's a cool-looking shot Brian took.  No editing here.
OK, and now for the best part. So I was playing around with the camera, reading the manual, uploading some photos and such when for some reason or another I found it necessary to open the Recycling Bin on my computer's hard drive. When what to my wandering eyes should appear but -- ALL MY 2009 PHOTOS! The ones I thought I lost on my scratched DVD! Apparently super awesome Me never emptied out the Recycling Bin after I burned and then deleted the photos. All I had to do was highlight and click Restore and there they were, all pretty and neatly organized back in their folders. It was awesome, I'm telling you. Now we have proof that I did indeed give birth to Lucy.  And also proof that St. Anthony totally rocks.

That's it from me.  Tell me about you.  What's going on in your life that I should know about?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Things We Like Best About Daddy

William: "He's big and he's funny."

I couldn't agree more, William.

Happy birthday to my much better, much funnier and much bigger half.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Blizzard of 2010

Are you sick of me talking about Minnesota and our winter weather?  Here she goes again.

I know, I know.

But here's the thing.  This was the fifth biggest snowstorm in the history of the Twin Cities.  Ever.  So if I don't write about it, someday my kids will be all, "Mom, what's with not even mentioning the biggest snowstorm of our lives?"  And I'll be all, "Well, I always wrote/complained about the winter weather so I didn't want to lose readers because I bored them to death."  And the kids would be all, "Yeah, but mom, seriously.  It was the biggest snowstorm of our lives!"

So here's what you should know/what I should mention:
  • Six inches of snow is a pretty big storm.  It will slow traffic quite a bit.  The city will call a snow emergency to clear the roads.  A few events and/or schools might be delayed or canceled.  Overall six inches is a pretty big mess when it comes to city living.  Now triple that.  ON TOP of the snow we already had, which was a lot.  And add in blowing and drifting snow.  And some below-zero temperatures to boot.  That's what we got.
  • It is no exaggeration to say that it crippled the Twin Cities for two full days.  We didn't even get mail on Saturday.  Through rain, snow and sleet but not blizzard, I guess.
  • We have shoveled/snowblowed about six times.  Once in the middle of the storm so Brian could start a path to follow once the storm was over.  Again when the snow finally stopped.  And then four additional occasions for each time the plow came by and left a mountain in front of our driveway and sidewalks in its wake.
  • The "side of the road" is now about three feet from where the curb used to be because when the snowbanks can't go up anymore, they go out.
  • An average drift in our backyard comes up to William's chest.  He can sit on our tree swing and comfortably rest his legs and feet out in front of him like a snow ottoman.
  • We walked to church on Sunday morning dressed like Eskimos.  The attendance resembled that of a weekday mass.  There was no choir and those who did make it filled in for missing lectors, ushers and Eucharistic ministers.  The priest, however, lives next door so he had no excuse.
  • Brian is officially a champion car-pusher having saved countless people on our block who have found some need great enough to get in their cars and venture out only to find themselves stuck in front of our house.
  • I was one of those people who stupidly ventured out to the Post Office today to mail our Christmas Cards.  The Post Office is a few miles from our house.  Round trip took me one hour.  Twenty minutes each way plus another twenty minutes circling the parking lot trying to snatch one of the five spots.  The other fifteen spots were occupied by snow.
  • When I returned I wasn't shocked to see that the plow had come back again blocking my entrance to our garage and to my sidewalk.  Don't worry.  I had my mountain-climbing gear in the backseat.  I threw a rope over and propelled that baby, no problem.

But here's some bright spots of the storm I want to mention:
  • Our snowed-in weekend was a lot of fun.  We played Christmas music nonstop, drank lots of hot chocolate, made three different kinds of cookies, decorated our Christmas tree, snuggled, kept warm by the fire and slept peacefully.
  • The kindness of other Minnesotans is really incomparable to anywhere else I've been in the U.S.  Complete strangers help one another without being asked and they do it with a smile and a laugh.  I'll have more on this later this week when Pay It Forward Friday returns.
  • If you don't have to be anywhere fast and if everything in your house is in working order and giving you a warm spot to rest your head a night, the whole outdoor scene really is majestic.  There's a stillness, a crispness and a wholeness to it all that isn't felt any other time of the year.
  • And finally, it's fun!  William and I got outside for an hour or so today and the kid could not have been more happy if you told him Santa was coming today.
So that's it!  There's my obligatory post on the 2010 Blizzard.  I mean, I think that's it.  January and March are still our snowiest months so there may be a second-parter to all this madness!

Minnesotans: What of your own experiences do you have to add?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How Much Snow Did We Get? This Much!

It's true.  We're in the midst of Blizzard clean-up around these parts.  More on that later.  But for those not around here wondering how much snow we got?  I leave you with this video.  Yes, it really is as crazy as it looks.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

One Of Those Cheater Posts

1.  I am extremely tense these days which has little to do with preparation for Christmas and everything to do with pains in my back.  My mom used to have a lot of problems with her back and I'm hoping I haven't inherited this from her.  I remember a few times when she couldn't get out of bed for a few days.  The most memorable part of those days were my dad's cooking skills (none) and how he used to style my and my sister's hair.  He knew side ponytails were cool before anyone else.

But seriously does anyone have any recommendations for me?  There seems to be two issues causing me pain.  One is a knot like feeling right under my right shoulder blade.  The other, I think, is my sciatic nerve which started on and off when I was pregnant with Lucy.  It's a shooting pain that goes from my left lower back into my butt and down to the back of my leg.  This pain has gotten so bad that there are some nights I literally have to crawl on my hands and knees up the stairs.

I would get my sorry self to a chiropractor ASAP if it weren't for our sucky insurance.  One of the downfalls when your husband works for a company with less than 30 people.  What should I do?  Should I bite the bullet and pay for the chiropractor and hope she/he doesn't tell me I need to come back 10 more times before it's better?

2.  We finally painted our dining and living room this past weekend.  Yay!  You'll be happy not to see any more paint swatch swipes in the background of my pictures.  We also hung a giant clock above our mantel and put up our Christmas tree.

3.  While said painting was getting done, Brian and I locked trapped secluded the kids on the porch to play with their toys.  When the weekend was over it looked like hurricane-strength winds had whipped through there.

As I was weeding through toys and putting things away I gasped when I saw a DVD lying face-down on the floor.  Written with a Sharpie the label read: 2009 Photos.  As in ALL THE PHOTOS I TOOK IN 2009!  2009 -- The year Lucy was born!

I flipped the DVD over and saw a pretty substantial scratch.  I said some quick pleading and begging prayers and popped the DVD in my computer.  Nothing.  Then I tried the DVD player.  Cannot Read Disk.  $#*%!!!!!

Hubby and I have looked up a few solutions via a Google search but haven't tried anything yet.  I wanted to ask you, the great Internets, if you've encountered this problem or how you think I might solve it.  I'm not desperate to get all the pictures back but I am desperate to get a few back.  Please!

4.  Last night William went to bed with Pink Eye, an ailment he experiences a few times a year.  This morning he woke up with Croup, another ailment he experiences a couple times a year.  I'm not complaining.  Both are easily treatable and go away relatively quickly.  But when we were eating breakfast this morning he told me:

"Mommy, my sick eye made my voice change."

Gotta love four-year-old logic.

5.  When I'm thinking about the season of Christmas and how much is spent I think I spend more on food than gifts.  Is this true for anyone else?  I make about six different batches of cookies, make fun holiday cocktails, try to bring appetizers to all parties I'm invited to and want to treat my own family to a lavish meal before we venture over the river and through the woods.

Or maybe it's not that I go big on food but rather that I go too cheap on gifts. :)

6.  I'm about 80% through with my Christmas shopping which means wrapping has begun.  The other day I opened a brand new tube of wrapping paper and as I unrolled a bit I noticed the loveliest thing.  There was a grid printed on the back side to help with precise cutting.  Genius!  How has no one thought to do this until now?  No more uneven edges or sloppy ends.  I bet this year even Brian could wrap a mean present.

7.  Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  Don't forget to thank our Blessed Mother for saying, "Yes!"

Monday, December 6, 2010


I have to say that I am a total and complete genius.  I had so. much. fun reading all your responses to the question I posed in my first ever giveaway.  They were cute and funny and endearing and it really made me ponder the memories I'm making for my own kids.

And now for the fun part.  Thanks to the winner is commenter #52!

Congratulations to Autumn B. who said:
I remember the year that I got an electric blue ****portable*** phone for my room! I was in heaven & my parents even got a "teen line" put in - do you remember when they called them that? In the phone book it had my parents number and then under that it listed "Teen Line' with my number...oh they days before cell phones. Anyways, I thought I was so cool and that the phone was awesome, it had MEMORY dial =)
I totally remember teen lines.  Do you?  I never had one but I always dreamed of having one.  We didn't even have a separate line for my Dad's fax machine!  Remember that one episode of Full House when D.J. got her own line?  Ahh...the days before cell phones.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Cold climate moms have more stress than warm climate moms.  It's a fact.  Not really.  I don't think.  But someone should check into that.

This year the snow and cold came out of nowhere.  Well, not really.  It's all pretty normal.  But when you have record highs one day and a foot of snow the next, it feels like it came out of nowhere.

And it's all fun and games until you have to go somewhere.  And not just up the street for a cup of coffee.  I mean really go somewhere.  In a timely manner.

At the beginning of the school year I really thought that William's preschool being just a little over a block from our house was a super plus.  Now I'm not so sure.

The problem is that the distance from our house is such that it's really ridiculous to ever drive there.  But the distance is enough that I can't just slip out the door with my robe on and wave goodbye.  So we walk there.  Twice a day, two times a week.

But in order to do the walking I first must do the bundling.  This, my friends, is where I tell you I miss having an infant.  An infant who needs no shoes, and an infant who can simply be put into a complete outerwear unit with one single zip.  No messing with hats, silly mittens or even boots.  I could lay her on the sofa, zip her up, scoop her in my arms and we were out.  The inventor of the snowsuit bunting is pure genius.

I kid you not when I tell you that from the time we are all ready in the morning it takes us an additional fifteen minutes to get out the door.  Fifteen minutes!

William is self-sufficient for the most part not including getting the zipper on his coat started and getting on his second mitten.  And if it's a tennis shoes day he needs help with the tying.

My most trying days are the ones when I he's all set with a hat, coat and mittens and I send him to the back door to put on his Velcro shoes because I haven't got time to tie his tennies.  It's then that I realize I've made a horrible mistake that will cost me an extra few minutes.  I've already put on his mittens.  He will do one of two things.  He will either try to put the Velcro shoes on while wearing his fleece mittens (try it, I dare you) or he will fling his mittens off in the dining room on the way to the back door and forget to put them back on until we're already out of the house and I've locked the door.

Then there's Lucy who, bless her heart, loves to wear hats.  But that's it.  Hates to put on her coat.  Refuses to push her hand into her mittens.  Won't step her heel all the way down into her boots.  Insert gigantic audible sigh.

Why has NOBODY thought to make a better option for toddler mittens?!  [And if they have, please send me a link where I can buy some.]

We already have the kind without thumbs which seems to help a little bit but they are still impossible to (a) push on and (b) keep on.  Can't someone invent a wrap style mitten with a Velcro close?  Maybe that's the ticket to my million dollars right there.  Don't steal the idea, now!  Actually do.  Just make the mittens, I'll buy them, you can have your millions and I'll take back those extra fifteen minutes each morning.

In an effort to not make this post sound all seasonally depressed I have to say that I really do love having a winter.  I know it's long and it's not without it's hassles but I really would miss it if it never came.  Kind of like being with family over the holidays.  You could never imagine not being with them.  And the first few days are so. much. fun.  But then it gets long.  And you miss your routine.  And your own shower.  And your own bed. And your own cooking.  But all the same, you're glad you came.  And you're glad when it's over.

So I know it's not your fault, Winter.  And I still appreciate thee.  I just think I wouldn't complain as much if I didn't have to leave the house.
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